Almost anyone who travels to Jawalakhel chowk, with its iconic roundabout containing the statue of King Birendra in its center, will say they haven’t noticed the signage for Badri ko Halwai Pasal confectionery. Tucked behind the statue’s northern periphery, the 112-year-old store has witnessed over a century of Nepal’s often turbulent and resilient history from one place.
It was officially created by Nani Beti Tamrakar, great-grandmother of the current owners, Kedar Tamrakar and Deepak Tamrakar, in 1909. Kedar says: “The confectionery was started to meet the demands of the Jawalakhel Palace of Jung Bahadur Rana. My great-grandmother’s house was in Thapathali and she moved to Patan after her marriage. She then moved to Jawalakhel with her brother to open the confectionery, and our family has carried on her legacy ever since.
Badri ko Halwai Pasal, 112, has undergone some cosmetic changes, but its core has remained the same. Kedar, 60, says he is proud to carry on the legacy of making traditional Newa candies. “Traditional Newa sweets like jeri swari, balbara, finished khaja, rato puri, etc. are part of Newa culture and are necessary from birth to death. And for all these years, we have responded to community requests for quality candy, ”says Kedar.
The dilapidated confectionery is adorned with relics from the past. The east entrance to the store features a majestic wall of ‘ankhi jhya ‘. Deepak, co-owner and younger brother of Kedar, informs that in the past, the craft complex ‘ankhi jhya ‘ were opened up during the festive seasons and candy was handed out to the raving crowds. Now windows are more aesthetic than a functional design, but their cultural history and meaning is still important, says Deepak.
Inside the boutique, a giant rectangular mirror on the north wall, like those found in hair salons, greets customers. Old photos hang on the east and west walls. In one of the photos, the current owners, their grandmother Gun Maya, and their childhood friend pose in front of their home and candy store about 50 years ago. Another is an aerial view of Jawalakhel chowk taken about 15 years ago; another shows a first version of the central zoo with a few houses in the background.
One recent morning, Niranjan Ranjit, 48, a resident of Dhobighat, enjoys a haluwa-swari breakfast with his wife. He says he visits the confectionery about four times a month.
Much like the previous and current owners of Badri ko Halwai Pasal who have passed on the art of making traditional Newa sweets from generation to generation, their repeat customers have also passed on their preference for confectionery for any candy-related necessity. to their children. For Ranjit, his connection with the Badri ko Halwai Pasal began when his grandmother used to buy candy at the store as a child.
“Maybe because I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, I feel like the candy in this store[Badri ko Halwai Pasal] are the purest. That’s why I come here to buy the necessary sweets for any festival or puja organized in my house, ”says Ranjit. “My kids prefer sweets from Indian confectionery chains, but for me, I always go back to Badri every time.”
The owners say regular customers come from all over the valley. They believe their credible, long-standing reputation as a confectionery attracts customers who want pure traditional sweets for festivals and religious rituals.
Kedar says they sell around 200-300 packs of finished khaja per month and 10-15 kg each of popular sweets like jeri-swari and haluwa-swari each day. During the wedding and party seasons, the store is inundated with orders for an assortment of lunchbox-style candies. Even in the off-season, the shop is swarming with hungry shoppers eager to buy their share of jeri-swari or haluwa-swari.
However, traditional confectionery also faced stiff competition from the influx of Indian confectionery chains into the valley. “Indian confectionery has given us immense competition. We can’t afford to compete with the international confectionery chains, ”says Kedar. “Traditional Nepalese and Newa sweets are mostly made from flour and are not overly sweet like Indian sweets, which are mostly made from milk and khuwa.“
Badri ko Halwai Pasal also had to adapt to the changing taste buds of customers. As Indian sweets started to become popular in the Nepalese market, the store also added Indian sweets like rasbari, kaju barfi, kala jamoon, among others, to its menu around 15 years ago.
Currently, the owners have given in to a new demand: digital payment. A new QR code payment plate from Esewa shines on customers from the Badri ko Halwai Pasal payment counter.
“Many banks have offered to set up a digital payment system, but we did not give in because most of our customers are seniors who do not use such methods. But middle-aged and young customers are increasingly asking questions about digital payment. So when a representative from Esewa came about two weeks ago, we didn’t say no, ”Deepak explains.
There were even plans to add an instant coffee machine, but the plans had to be shelved due to limited store space, Kedar says. Right outside the payment counter, a refrigerator, which contains yogurt, gudpak, and cold drinks, hums low. Next to it is a small freezer which contains a variety of ice creams.
“While bajaiat the time, the store didn’t even have chairs or tables. She used to sit in the middle of the shop and cook sweets for customers. Refrigerators or the on-site dining culture did not exist back then, ”says Kedar.
Kedar and Deepak remember how they were both die-hard volleyball fans as teenagers. “Bajai and aama used to run the store at the time, so we were free to pursue our passion for volleyball. But as I got older I needed to be more responsible and take care of the store, so I had to stop thinking about volleyball, ”says Kedar.
His brother, on the other hand, had a little more freedom to pursue his passion. Deepak said, “Looking at my dai playing volleyball inspired me to play the sport. We both even played a game together on the same team. But then, you couldn’t make a living by pursuing a career in sports. There was no reach, ”says Deepak. But he was successful enough to be part of the national volleyball team at the 1995 South Asian Games. For Deepak, the pride in wearing the national sports jersey and representing Nepal was “l ‘one of the proudest moments of my life’.
Now both brothers have long given up their hopes of a successful volleyball career, but are still members of the local Jawalakhel volleyball training center.
Sawan Tamrakar, 31, and Prajeet Tamrakar, 27, the fifth generation in the family, have also joined the family business, much to the delight of their father, Kedar. “The kids run the family business for a reason, you know. Parents and grandparents have already laid the groundwork so that children don’t have to start from scratch, ”says Kedar.
Kedar’s two sons, Sawan and Prajeet, carried on and developed the family heritage of sweets. They established a factory in Thapathali to mass produce food like lakhamari, khajuri, nimki, potato chips, furandana, etc. The various sweets and dry foods produced by the factory are distributed to shops and supermarkets throughout the valley.
Thinking back to the city’s politically turbulent past that Badri ko Halwai Pasal witnessed, Kedar says the most dangerous period was during the People’s Movement of 1990. Meanwhile, he says, “There was no no certainty of anything. Things would look peaceful and we would open the store, but then there would be a demonstration in the afternoon and we had to shut the store in a hurry. “
In comparison, the recent blockages induced by the Covid-19 pandemic have been less troublesome. Closures were scheduled and restrictions were clearly notified in advance, unlike violent protests in the past. “Since we were allowed to operate the factory, we have been able to get by even though we had to shut down our confectionery. We just made various sweets and dry foods in the factory and focused on selling them throughout the pandemic, ”says Deepak.
Badri ko Halwai Pasal’s only outlet is in Jawalakhel at the moment, but that may change soon. Sawan shares that they plan to open a new outlet soon to expand their customer base. “There is a new confectionery opening in Kumaripati. We can’t fall behind either, ”says Sawan. “We are currently carrying out market research and plan to open a new point of sale in the valley soon.”